Photo from KTLA news.

It’s winter! In southern California, all I have to do is drive an hour and I’m in the snow. I could drive an hour in a different direction and watch surfers but I decided not to.

When snow falls in the southern California mountains, they become a zoo. It snows every year in the mountains yet people don’t have a clue how to drive. They shut down Interstate 5 for snow amounts that would be thought trivial in most of the Northern states.

Avery shaking snow off her nose.

For the mountain communities, the crowds are thick, the traffic is heavy and the snowfields close to the main roads are crowded. That’s where local knowledge comes in. I have heard it said that few people stray off the beaten path. In this case, the beaten path is paved and has stores, gas stations, and restaurants.

I took Oliver and Avery up to Frazier Mountain. Head west of Frazier Park a couple miles, hang a left onto Lockwood Valley Road then another left at Frazier Mountain Road.  You’ll drive thru the recently expanded Chuchupate Ranger station. Just beyond that is a large parking area and a gate across the road. There is also signage for the Frazier Mountain ORV trail which starts here. All this is new.

Oliver getting bogged down a little.

During summer this is a road one could take 3 miles to Chuchupate Campground and then 4 miles beyond to the top of Frazier Mountain. There is a decaying fire lookout up there. I was just up there last year. Wife and daughter and I were also up there 30 years ago. But right now it is gated for the winter and all you’ll see are hardy hikers and cross country skiers.

Avery resting.

There is no overnight parking here. Unless you have someone to drop you off and pick you up, that shuts down any winter backpacking. Knowing how they lock and unlock gates around here, probably any early spring and late fall backpacking as well. It irks me to have to hike miles on perfectly clear paved roads just to get to a trailhead because of a locked gate in October or April.

Oliver in the lead!

The lot is huge and has permanent outhouses but I count only six cars in a hundred spaces and they were staying close. Beyond the gate, the road shows signs of plenty of hiking and some skiing but none today. It is Monday the 30th. One of the few perks of being retired is being able to hike when the crowds are gone.

Avery and Oliver loved the snow but had issues with the deeper parts. They had to bound over the snow and then sank in deep. As long as they were on a broken trail though, they’d run until I called them back. Again and again and again. I don’t have the energy to keep up so I had to keep them on a verbal leash. Bringing the dogs up to an isolated place to explore and keeping them on a fixed leash would have been both impractical and sad. Let them run free for a bit.